Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets Open Day Report

Sunday 30th May 2010

Within a stone's throw of the birthplace of the jet engine, Bruntingthorpe Airfield has aptly become home to some of the most historic names in British aviation history. This is not some dusty collection in a dark and draughty hangar, these aeroplanes are most definitely alive and kicking. The torrential rain that had blighted the last two Cold War Jets Open Days thankfully did not make a return visit, its place taken by broken cloud and a keen 20 knot cross wind which caused some problems of its own for the aircraft, aircrew and spectators alike.

Steve Buckby reports from Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground. Photos by the author and Ian Matthews.

Visitors were hoping to see the newly acquired Nimrod MR2 taxiing as a finale, but the MOD still technically own the aeroplane and flatly refused permission to let it move at all until the paperwork catches up. Other new arrivals on static display were an F-104G Starfighter, which had arrived a couple of days beforehand from Lasham, and one of the pair of VC-10s that are being parted out and eventually scrapped.

The opening act was the Comet on the first of its two fast taxis which had the car alarms sounding, followed by the Royal Navy schemed Buccaneer S2 (now complete with under wing slipper tanks) which kept the photographers entertained as it performed carousels and demonstrated the wing-fold, rotating bomb bay, air brake and the arrester hook systems.

Many of the assembled enthusiasts attend these open days to experience the earth shaking fury of a Lightning in full afterburner at close quarters, and former OC Lightning Training Flight Dennis Brooks didn't disappoint in XS904. The Lightning doesn't like crosswinds as it takes a heavy toll on it's skinny high pressure tyres. On closer inspection the canvas was clearly visible. The LPG had some major serviceability problems with one of the Lightning's Avon engines but thankfully this was fixed the day before.

There was much divided opinion in the bumper crowd about the next aircraft to take to the runway, Victor K2 XM715, now freshly re-painted into Operation Granby 'desert pink' after a six month restoration program. Whilst the colour may be questionable, and a much debated issue at present on our forums, Matt Walton and his team have obviously achieved an excellent finish that will keep the dreaded oxidisation at bay for a good many years to come, which is definitely the most important issue at the end of the day.

The blustery conditions however, meant that the Victor could not deploy its brake chute so she could not be exercised to her full extent. A further victim of the crosswind was the BBMF Lancaster which was unable to depart from Coningsby for it's scheduled flypast.

Another English Electric product delivered another assault on the senses in the form of Canberra B(I)8/B6. The sound and smell of it's cartridge start certainly grabbed the attention of the audience. The entertainment was not just on the runway, the crowds were also treated to Buccaneer XX900's regular hydraulic system demonstrations and Sea Vixen XJ949 performing a run of a single engine and a test of its wing-fold mechanism.

The organisers and volunteers must be congratulated on what was probably the best Cold War Jets taxi event to date, great value with lots see and experience. Bruntingthorpe will soon have quite a collection of live aeroplanes that it will be able to showcase at future events.


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